One who had conceived virginally by the Holy Spirit had no need to submit to this rite. But the incomparable humility of the Queen of Virgins prompted Her to present herself to the priest together with her Divine Son.
The humanity of approximately two millennia ago was pervaded by pride and infidelity to God’s Law.
The Gentiles followed their sinful practices, having as their law self-love and disregard for others. The Jews, although they possessed the light of prophecy and knew the true God, had grown cold in the expectation of their Redeemer’s coming, and consequently did not strive to lead virtuous lives.
However, they were unaware that in the small town of Bethlehem a noble and holy couple were already adoring the newborn Baby God. It was the Divine Infant, to whom the Blessed Virgin had given birth, and whom She now cradled in her arms, waiting for the completion of the forty days necessary for her purification and the presentation of the Child in the Temple, as commanded by the Law of Moses.
“God giveth grace to the humble”
What need was there for the Author of the Law and the Mother of grace to observe the Mosaic precepts? Certainly none at all. However, out of a love for the Law which He himself had created, and profound humility, they went to the Temple, accompanied by St. Joseph.
He “who did not yet speak, in order to resemble men in everything except sin (cf. Heb 4:15), was continually in mystical communication with His parents. And He had made known to them His desire to keep the Law in all things, so as to set a good example of humility and obedience.”1
Faithful to supernatural inspiration, Our Lady and her Holy Spouse set out on the road to Jerusalem with the Divine Infant. The God-Man was about to enter for the first time into that city which, years later, He would visit again doing good, and which finally, to consummate His labour of love, He would traverse carrying the Cross on His shoulders.
Thus, hidden from human eyes, but serving as a spectacle to the Angels, the Holy Family approached the Temple. When They reached its walls, Mary Most Holy stopped at the door, like the other mothers of Israel who could not enter before being purified.
One who had conceived virginally by the work of the Holy Spirit had no need to submit to this rite. But the incomparable humility of the Queen of Virgins prompted Her to present herself to the priest together with her Divine Son.
“It was becoming that the Mother should be like her Son in humility: for ‘God giveth grace to the humble’ (Jas 4:6),”2 the Angelic Doctor teaches.
The reward for an unshakeable faith
This is when the meeting with the aged Simeon takes place.
Moved by the Holy Spirit, he approaches the young couple who were carrying that most precious among all creatures, takes Him in his arms and sings His glory: “Behold, this Child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed” (Lk 2:34-35).
A frail child, seemingly without comprehension, Our Lord understood that canticle which He himself had inspired…
The brevity of the account of this meeting, occupying only eleven verses of St. Luke’s Gospel, awakens in our hearts the desire to know of the ineffable wonders that the brief biblical account does not reveal. For, considering the many years that Simeon had been awaiting the Messiah, the venerable old man’s encounter with the Divine Infant must have been a moving occasion.
Bowed down as he was by a life of long trials and sufferings, Simeon now held in his arms the fulfilment of the promise, as a reward for his unshakeable faith. And Our Lord caressed him with His tiny hands, causing unexpected tears of joy to flow from the eyes of that unshakable monument.
“Simeon’s fidelity had reached its apex, and for this reason he was rewarded with superabundant consolation.”3
The humble are always exalted
One aspect of this episode in the life of Our Lord Jesus Christ especially calls our attention.
During their visit to the Temple, Our Lady and the Child God sought to hide themselves under the veil of humility, but there did not fail to appear those who recognized and proclaimed them: Him, as the Light of the Nations and the Glory of the People of Israel (cf. Lk 2:32), and Her as the Mother of the Light and the Coredemptrix of mankind.
Indeed, no other is the meaning of Simeon’s prophecy: “a sword will pierce through your own soul” (Lk 2:35). By consenting to the Passion of Our Lord and suffering with Him, Mary was part of Christ’s redemptive work.
This is the reward of the humble: the more they hide, the more God exalts them, making them shine with increasing brilliance. As for the proud, the more they run after worldly glories, the more they will feel their isolation as they are consigned to oblivion.
Let us follow the example of Mary, Queen of humility. If with just one word addressed to her Divine Son She can obtain for us any grace, let us ask Her to make us humble and observant of the Law.
Let us also beseech Her to help us to grow constantly in faith and fidelity, following the example of Simeon, so that before departing for the eternal Kingdom we may say: “Now, Lord, take my soul, for my eyes have seen, while still on this earth, the glory of Thy Most Holy Mother!” ◊